Natural Tips for Happier Pets

There are many ways we can make our pets happier - not just with treats!  The following are a few suggestions for things we can easily do to help our best friends stay healthy and happy.

Around the Home

A lot of products used around the home can be harmful to animals - garden and cleaning products for example can be irritants to their skin, and remember they lick their paws and hair to clean themselves so they are also ingesting these chemicals long after you use them.  Try to use products which are as natural as possible - this is often a lot easier than you would think.  Plain white vinegar is an effective cleaning agent, and you can kill weeds and grass with just boiling water - there is no need to use poisons which can be dangerous to your animals.

Mint is a deterrent to mice, ants, flies and other insects.  Grow a mint plant near entry ways and scrunch the leaves to release the scent.  Or, even easier, get a bottle of peppermint essential oil and spray or drop some around doorways, windowsills, anywhere you think they might be getting in.  The aroma repels them without harming them, and is safe for your animals* - and your house smells lovely and fresh as well.  To really discourage mice, soak some cotton balls in the peppermint oil and place them behind the furniture or wherever you think they might be hiding.  Make sure you get the essential oil, not just a fragrance oil (which may actually attract them).  Essential oils are available from health shops, chemists, and many supermarkets.
*make sure your animals are able to get away from the smell though in case they find it a bit overpowering.

Ground cinnamon is also said to repel ants if sprinkled around entry points, as are cucumber skins.

Health and Wellbeing
Many animals get distressed during thunderstorms, fireworks, or even just when you go to work for the day.  There are some very easy ways to help them relax and feel calmer.

Studies have shown that classical music has a soothing effect on some animals, so you might like to tune your radio to a classical station and have it on in the lead up to stressful times - or even all the time.  Try it out before a stressful situation arises though, so you are not adding something completely unknown whilst the animal is already upset.

Essential oils Neroli and Lavender are both calming scents for animals as well as people.  Spray a little on their bedding, collar or coat (somewhere they won't lick it off) if you know a storm is looming or fireworks might be going off.  You could also dab a bit on your hands or shoes if you are taking them to the vet, so they will be smelling it whilst beside (or on top of) you.  Make sure you get an essential oil, not just a fragrance oil.  Essential oils are available from health shops, chemists, and many supermarkets.  Always dilute essential oils in water or a carrier oil, and use sparingly with cats, as they are even more sensitive to them than dogs. And don't use oils with dogs who have nerve conditions such as twitches or leg jerking, as essential oils can exacerbate these problems. 
Rescue Remedy is also helpful in stressful circumstances, and can be added to your animals' water, or directly into their mouths.  It is available in health shops, chemists, and some supermarkets.

If your animals panic when they hear the word "vet", try taking them there occasionally, giving them a treat in the waiting room and then leaving, so they come to associate it with good things instead of as a scary place.

Consider natural therapies - there are many practitioners available now to give your animals Bowen Therapy, Acupuncture, Massage, Reiki, etc.  Animals can benefit from natural and holistic therapies just as humans can, so if your vet doesn't consider all aspects of your animals' health and environment, look for someone who does.

There are a lot of natural treatments for fleas, for both cats and dogs, which are a lot less toxic to your animals than some flea powders can be.  One of the simplest is Apple Cider Vinegar, which you can buy from health food shops and some supermarkets - make sure you get the unfiltered type, with the murky 'mother' in the bottom of the bottle.  Mix with equal parts water and bathe your dog or cat in it (or dab/spray it on if they prefer this to a bath.*  Adding a small amount to their drinking water will also act as a deterrent to future infestations, but start out with a tiny amount and gradually increase as they get used to the taste.  Apple Cider Vinegar in drinking water also alleviates tear stains, and helps with dermatitis.
*Don't apply to broken skin or sores, or it will sting.

Adding a small amount of raw garlic to your dog's food can also help ward off fleas.

Essential oils Lavender, Peppermint and Citronella* are flea repellants so it can help to spray these in places fleas might be nesting, like under couch cushions and rugs.  

*Avoid using these with dogs who have pre-existing nerve conditions, like twitches, seizures, or leg spasms, as essential oils can exacerbate these problems.

Summer Heat
If the weather's warm enough to make you hot, imagine what it must feel like to be covered in a thick coat of hair!  

There are a lot of simple ways you can help your animals to be more comfortable during summer. First and foremost, it is imperative that your pets have enough shady spots outside and cool places inside, and access to plenty of water. 

Always leave out more than one water bowl in case they knock it over or play in it and don’t leave enough for drinking for the rest of the day.

Freeze a bowl or plastic container of water and give it to your animals before you leave in the morning, so they will have cold water later in the day when the temperature is soaring.  You could also give them a bowl of icecubes - they will melt quicker, but some dogs enjoy crunching on them.

If your outside pets like water, consider putting a little wading pool in the shade for them to paddle about in to cool themselves off.  For inside animals, you could put a little bit of water in the bottom of the bath or hand basin for them to drink and cool off in (don’t fill it up too much).

Don't walk dogs during the heat - if it's too hot for you to go out walking on the concrete in bare feet and wearing a heavy coat, it's too hot for them!

If you live in a bushfire risk area, make sure you include the animals in your fireplan.  Have crates, leads, bowls, food, toys etc ready for evacuations and make sure animals are allowed at the place you will be evacuating to.

Cats and dogs shed their winter coats as the weather gets warmer, but you can give them a helping hand with this - a good brush not only makes them feel relaxed, it removes the loose hairs a lot quicker (and lessens the amount you have to pull off your clothes and furniture!)